On Tuesday November 10th 2015 at 6pm, human rights campaigners and environmentalists gathered at Shell’s Irish headquarters to mark the twentieth anniversary of the execution of poet and playwright Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight others known as the Ogoni 9. The vigil is being organised by Afri and is supported folk singer Christy Moore and Sr. Majella McCarron, an Irish missionary nun from County Fermanagh who was formerly based in Nigeria where she was a friend of Saro-Wiwa.
The Ogoni 9, campaigners against Shell’s activities in the Niger Delta, were executed by hanging in 1995 by the military dictatorship of General Sani Abacha. In 1996 the U.S based Center for Constitutional Rights sued Shell for its complicity in human right abuses against the Ogoni people, including collusion in bringing about the deaths of the Ogoni 9. In June 2009, on the eve of the trial, a settlement of $15.5 million was made to establish a trust on behalf of the Ogoni people. Shell continues to face fierce criticism for the environmental and health legacy they have left in Ogoniland. (Ref: http://www.amnesty.org.uk/blogs/yes-minister-it-human-rights-issue/shell-oil-nigeria-ken-saro-wiwa-niger-delta )
Ken Saro-Wiwa’s brother Owens, speaking about his brother’s death has said that he fears lessons have not been learned.
“Shell talks of jobs and progress, crows about its lavish philanthropy and promises that no harm will be done, no chaos left in its wake. I heard these promises in Rossport and I fear that Shell’s bounty in Ogoni may yet be repeated elsewhere. This is a company that pantomimes concern and compassion for human beings when its only true concern is for where new money can be found. No doubt Shell’s sights are already set on its next oil field conquest, irrespective of who lives there or their history with that land.”
“When my brother Ken was executed, his last words were “Lord, take my soul…but the struggle continues.” I hope Ken is watching and seeing that, yes, it does. From Ogoniland to the Arctic, to Erris County Mayo and beyond, people are rising up to say “Shell No!” They are standing strong against a corporation and an entire industry that will mortgage our future for quick profits.”
Joe Murray, organiser of the vigil and Director of human rights and peace organisation Afri, agrees that there is a clear parallel between Ogoniland and Mayo.
“Just as Shell colluded with the military dictatorship in Nigeria, the Irish State has colluded with Shell in bribing, bullying and intimidating the community in Kilcommon into accepting a monument to fossil fuels at a time when climate change threatens the very survival of our planet. The Corrib gas project, in which Statoil is also a partner, has been a disaster for human rights, civil liberties and the environment. The natural gas giveaway has already resulted in a very bad deal the Irish taxpayer.”
Willie Corduff, one of the Rossport 5 who spent 94 days in prison at the behest of Shell, says the community in Erris remember the Ogoni 9 on a daily basis.
“Today, as Shell preaches progress, many miles from their homeland in Nigeria the crosses of the 9 Ogoni heroes stand defiantly in front of the main refinery gate at Ballinaboy as a reminder to Shell that their sins will follow them forever.”
A separate vigil by the Shell to Sea group was held from 12 noon at Shell’s headquarters on 52 Lower Leeson St., Dublin 2.